They should not vote for any party that denies youth aspirants, particularly women, opportunity in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Going by what has been happening to the youths in this country, politically, the words of Attahiru Jega come to play. Jega who is a seasoned political scientist, former vice chancellor and former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wrote in 2014: “Nigeria had capable youths that could chart the course for a great nation but the challenge was that they had been abandoned. There is a lot to give us concern as a nation about the way our country is being run, because we have able and capable young men and women out there. All they need is the opportunity to contribute to the development of this country.”
What Jega said aptly depicts the unsavory situation Nigerian youths find themselves today in spite of their brilliance and innate capabilities. They lack opportunities to realize their God-given talents and potentials. Certain institutional encumbrances and structural imbalance in our body polity have further denied them the opportunity to fully participate in democracy and contribute to nation building. This is why they constitute the bulk of migrants who cross the hazardous Sahara Desert and the treacherous Mediterranean in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece in Europe.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, following the enactment of the Not Too Young to Run Act, which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, which now allows youths to contest for different elective positions, starting from the office of the president down to councilor. The Act was a campaign started in 2016 by the Youth Initiative for Advancement and Growth in Africa (YIAGA), which advocated for inclusion of young people in democratic governance.
For years, Nigerian youths were denied access to power through democratic participation while their counterpart in developed countries like France and Canada have had chance to attain the highest political position. For example, President Macron of France is below 40 while in Nigeria youths are still struggling to find their feet in terms of getting themselves employed in public or private establishments. Most of the time, their vibrancy will die before they economically start their life of independence.
Giving the socio-economic living condition in Nigeria, Nigerian youths will hardly have any meaningful achievement in their life until they reach middle age status. In addition to that what hinders them from active political participation is money politics and godfatherism to maintain the status quo. The worst case is represented by the of graduates who are already in their 30s at the point of graduation and may sometimes spend up to 10 years before securing a job and begin to think on how to settle down. The current situation in Nigeria whereby the youths lack opportunity to start early in life is devastating.
Furthermore, attaining the leadership positions is structured to always favour the ruling elite, who double as shakers and movers of political transition. There is no level playing ground for people from poor backgrounds to seek elective offices. Apparently, the Not Too Young to Run Act is a welcome development in Nigeria in particular and Africa at large. It is so significant looking at how African leaders have a history of sitting tight. This was seen in Libya, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Cameroon, among others.
For that, the stakeholders need to do more to provide conducive environment and equal participation in politics for Nigerian youths particularly women.
Government at all levels and other critical institution like INEC, NOA and religious leaders should make conscious effort de-emphasize the role of money politics and Godfatherism in our democratic culture in particular the electorates should be properly educated on democratic norms and values in such a way that they will begin to hold their leaders accountable and insist in good governance, transparency and accountability rather than accepting chromes from the public office holders. There should be also a deliberate attempt to affect a paradigm shift in leadership recruitment pattern by selecting youths, who have demonstrated uncommon capabilities in their areas of specialization for effective leadership and mentorship.
Lastly, since Nigerian youths constitute a significant percentage of the Nigerian population, they are the main prime movers in term campaign and party activities, they should not vote for any party that denies youth aspirants, particularly women, opportunity in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
► Idris Mohammed, a youth advocate and program officer, Watching The Vote YIGA Africa, wrote via email: [email protected] com; Twitter: idpyar
Loopholes in the NYSC scheme
The media elaborately reported allegations that the Honourable Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, was allegedly involved in a matter that concerned exemption from the National Youth Service Corps scheme, which is a mandatory one year engagement, by obtaining a certificate that raised questions about the document. Ordinarily, forgery is a criminal act that attracts serious sanctions in the eyes of the law if the person who committed the alleged forgery is prosecuted in court and found guilty. Many have been quick to apportion blame to her for the alleged act, I would rather focus on the root of the matter from another stand point, which is to look at the lapses in the NYSC scheme that have created room for such acts of gross misconduct.
The then military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, introduced the NYSC scheme in 1973 after the Nigerian Civil war by promulgating Decree 24 and the major aim was to reconcile, rebuild and promote national unity. To a large extent, the NYSC scheme has achieved this. But there are loopholes in the NYSC scheme that need to be investigated.
The age limit for those eligible for the NYSC scheme is 30 years, but if you visit any NYSC orientation camp now one will be shocked to see corps members who are in no way physically and otherwise below 30 years. It is no longer news that there are also fake NYSC orientation camps in the country as well as unqualified individual’s and part time students who gain access to call-up letters and find themselves in various orientation camps across the country.
Revelation of the alleged forgery committed by the Minister of Finance should not be seen as a political weapon against her and the APC-led administration, but it should rather serve as an eye opener to the government and make the relevant authorities to move quickly to close the loopholes that exist in the NYSC scheme as there are many fake exemption letters as well as fake NYSC certificates circulating in the country.
The NYSC is also guilty. If truly Adeosun actually applied for an exemption letter as they have attested to, they have to bridge the law. If the minister graduated at 22 on what grounds did she apply for an exemption letter because pregnant women and those with chronic illness are exempted from the orientation camp but not from posting to areas of primary assignment? Moreover, married women on presentation of valid marriage documents are re-deployed back to where their husbands reside. If it was on health grounds what was the nature of the illness? These are matters that need to be investigated as we wait for the minister to break her silence on this serious matter.